The Virtues and Vices of LinkedIn
source // giphy
Whether you’re preparing for the onslaught of clerkship applications or hunting for legal experience early on in your degree, you may be wondering how to best cultivate a professional persona. It seems as if everyone around you has a LinkedIn profile, and in your eagerness to get a job you’re considering getting one too. From one humble law student’s perspective, here’s what to probably expect.
Virtue: Connect with friends, acquaintances, potential lovers?
It goes without saying that LinkedIn allows you to connect with your friends and celebrate their achievements in possibly the only socially acceptable forum to do so. Announcements about beginning a lucrative job at an illustrious firm, receiving a scholarship or sweeping an internal competition are obnoxious on Facebook and Instagram, but only less so on LinkedIn. Usually I get connection requests from acquaintances on there before they’ve even added me on Facebook, which makes me wonder when LinkedIn will be used to slide into people’s DMs.
But in all seriousness, LinkedIn keeps you up to date on others’ professional development. This could either ignite healthy competition or make you feel woefully inadequate. If it ever reaches the latter, take a step back and remember that LinkedIn is just like any other platform where people represent their best selves.
Virtue: Keeping up with the law-dashians
Your LinkedIn feed is one of the simplest ways to have legal news delivered right to your virtual doorstep. Articles written by firms about topical legal principles, important deals as well as commentary on law reform and recent decisions can help you understand their practice areas. Reading these articles can also bolster your commercial knowledge, providing you with talking material for an interview.
LinkedIn also has a job search function - from entry level opportunities to higher managerial roles. These are tailored to your viewing history and Career interests. If you’re actively applying or casually looking, have a glance at LinkedIn because you never know what comes up.
Vice: Battle of the cringe
Between all the insightful legal articles, peppered throughout your feed will be viral platitudes from CEOs and entrepreneurs with MBAs from obscure universities. They go a little something like this: “I slept through 40 minutes of my first interview. [paragraph break for suspense] When I woke up, I apologised profusely to my interviewer. [paragraph break again] He laughed, shook my hand and gave me the job. [you guessed it... paragraph break] The best bosses accept their employees’ mistakes as opportunities for growtth.” Because that definitely happened.
Sadly you’ll witness some of your acquaintances succumb to the battle of the cringe. They almost attempt to outdo each other with a pseudo-professional manner that’s so radically inconsistent with their behaviour in real life. That boy you could’ve sworn was loudly objectifying women when recounting his weekend spiritedly commented on an article about feminism: “An insightful article. Empowering women is important to society, as women gave birth to us. I would love to discuss this over coffee.” You feel like you’re being gaslit. All you can really do is accept that LinkedIn can be a tad bit performative. Just make sure you don’t feel pressured to adopt those mannerisms.
Vice: Exposing yourself
LinkedIn can be great for putting yourself on the map (but of course, don’t think it’s a prerequisite for getting a job or anything like that). However, it can make you feel quite exposed - suddenly you’re doubting whether to put ‘Year 6 Sports Prefect’ as one of your co-curriculars. Of course, you could always change your privacy settings so that only connections can view your full profile.
The real issue, in my experience, arises when lurking. When you visit someone’s profile, they will know. You can view profiles anonymously (which prevents you from seeing who’s viewed your profile), unless they’re on (usually free-trial) LinkedIn Premium, in which case they’ll see you regardless. Just be cautious of the golden LinkedIn symbol on people’s profiles if you don’t want to be exposed as a LinkedIn stalker. In any event, you risk getting sucked into a stalking spiral that lasts into the early morning - akin to clicking through Wikipedia hyperlinks for hours.
LinkedIn is nice to have if you want to stay up to date with what your connections and firms are up to. People may recommend it to you so that you open yourself up to recruiters. But know that you don’t need it to get a job!
While you choose how much information to include on your profile, using it to its fullest potential is like having your CV laid bare. That idea may sit uncomfortably with some. That said, LinkedIn is a great medium through which to present a cohesive professional identity. Just remember: in the wise words of social commentator and philosopher (former internet celebrity) Essena O’Neill, “social media is not real life”.
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